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Mine Commission Upholds Citations

The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission upheld citations issued last May by the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to Connolly-Pacific Co.'s Pebbly Beach Quarry, located on Catalina Island, Calif., according to MSHA.

On May 24, MSHA issued three citations to the mine operator for failing to properly maintain its highwall; remedy hazards associated with the highwall; and barricade the dangerous area to prevent access. An imminent danger order was issued, requiring the withdrawal of miners working under a highwall after a loader operator was observed mucking out a pile of material where loose material and overhanging rocks were observed near the crest. There also was evidence of recent work at the other end of a jagged highwall, with cracked and overhanging rocks in the working face.

In an expedited hearing requested by the mine operator, Connolly-Pacific Co. was charged with not maintaining its 300-ft. highwall in a stable condition. Benches generally are placed above the working area to catch and help control rocks or materials that are rolling or falling from the highwall. Scaling removes loose or hanging rocks and material before they fall. Pebbly Beach Quarry reportedly used neither method.

In her decision, Administrative Law Judge Margaret A. Miller found that loader operators were exposed daily to the hazards of falling rocks because there were no benches above the working area to catch them, and no equipment with sufficient reach to scale or remove loose rocks before they fell. Blasters working on foot at the toe of the highwall placing blasts and drilling also were exposed to the hazards.

The penalty for each citation was assessed at $555. Miller increased the penalty to $1,000 for the citation associated with failure to maintain highwall stability, reduced the penalty for failing to correct highwall hazards to $500 and increased the penalty for failing to barricade the dangerous area to $1,000.

Connolly-Pacific Co. can still appeal.